Bhutan to have 2 domestic airports by 2010

Although not on schedule, Bhutan will have two operational domestic airports in Bumthang and Trashigang by 2010, according to the department of civil aviation (DCA).

The aviation department will present to the cabinet, some time this week, an identified site for the construction of an airport in Bumthang.

DCA director general, Phala Dorji, said that Bathpalathang has been identified on the basis of its low operating costs and high safety characteristics. Nine sites in Bumthang were studied. DCA expects a decision from the cabinet by next week.

The DCA director general said that, once the site is available to the department, along with the necessary funds, construction would begin in early 2010 and end within the year.

Compared to Paro airport’s 1,985 m runway, Bathpalathang will have a considerably shorter runway of 1,200 m, able only to accommodate twin-engine propeller planes. A small passenger terminal building will also be constructed.

Bhutan’s other identified domestic airport in Yonphula, Trashigang, will not meet its completion deadline by January 2010. Construction work at Yonphula, which includes the installation of meteorological equipment, repairing of the already existing 1,200 m runway, removal of some hillocks and the construction of a terminal complex, were scheduled to begin in November. However, “government directives” to lower the scope and costs involved resulted in DCA revising its plans, according to the director general, Phala Dorji.

Construction will now commence in phases. The first phase will include only repairing the runway, setting up of fencing and water supplies to the site, and construction of a passenger terminal. Depending on traffic, DCA will then move into phase two. DCA will begin tendering of works on Monday, according to the director general. Yonphula airport is expected to be completed by the spring of 2010.

Meanwhile, DCA director general said human resources limitations are delaying progress on the 840 acre airport in Gelephu. The government is currently identifying private land at the site. On when the Gelephu airport is slated to be completed, the director general said, “It depends on how soon we can acquire the lands and funds.”

By Gyalsten K Dorji
Source: Kuenselonline

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